lava rock

  • Kamokuna At Night

    Photographing the Kamokuna Lava Ocean Entry at Night


    On December 31st there was a drastic change to the shoreline at the Kamokuna ocean entry. The lower shelf that the lava once gradually flowed over before entering into the ocean as well as part of an old lookout point fell into the ocean. Somewhere around 17 acres of land suddenly disappeared. I had to go see it and so as a last minute plan we headed over. I couldn’t believe the amount of roadblocks we encountered on the way. Dead car battery, flat bike tires, missing headlamps, and an accident that closed the road for 30min. While sitting in traffic I turned to my wife and said. “I don’t think we’re gonna make it in time.” At that point we considered abandoning the mission, but to our surprise the road opened up and we were on our way. Lucky it did because I don’t know when we would be able to get back over there.

    The trail was light with people, so we were able to ride with ease without having to worry about everyone and made it with plenty of daylight to spare. When we came prior to the collapse, in August of 2016, the road went on further and we were able to get close to the lava. Close enough where we were able to see a lot of action with our naked eyes. Now the new lookout puts us several hundreds of yards away. The action is harder to see without binoculars or zoom lenses. With the amount of smoke billowing off of the entry even seeing the lava is difficult. A gust of wind would swoop in and push the smoke where we would get a glimpse of the large lava river draining into the ocean. It was impressive to see even with the great distance.

    My family walked around and explored all the viewing areas while I found a spot I liked and didn’t move from that spot the entire time we were there. With the small crowds of people I wanted to make sure that I had a front row spot where I didn’t need to worry about someone moving in front of me. Even still I had the occasional tourist think I was their husband and stand next to me while telling me about how they nearly fell down in the dark. I would slowly look up and watch them get flustered with embarrassment and walk away. Strangely enough it happened more than once.

    My lens of choice was the 300mm telephoto for the distance. It was windy, so I needed to weigh the tripod down with my bag and crank down all the setting nobs. I also used a cable release and waited for the wind to die down before taking the shots in order to reduce camera shake. Any slight movement while fully zoomed in will move the composition a couple feet.

    It was at night that the lava glowed and showed life with a lot of small explosions. I decided to capture the night sky with my wide angle before leaving. I took 8 to 10 – 30 second shots while my kids grew impatient. They were definitely ready to start the long bike ride back and get something to eat.

    As I stepped off my bike at the car I was relieved the bike ride was over. Any longer and the extra hard, value engineered, cheap ass seat would have to be surgically removed from me. It has been a couple weeks since then, but I swear I walk differently now. We had fun.

    © Christopher Johnson


    View more lava images –

  • Life

    A hike over the old lava flow… and soon to be new lava flow, but don’t tell the fern. A brilliant reminder that life will always find a way.


    This image was taken near the new lava flow at Kamokuna in the Volcano National Park… fairly close to the lava flow. I deviated from the gravel road a bit to find this fern growing through the crack in the lava. The vibrant green leaves contrasting against the deep tones of the lava is a great contrast to life growing out of a harsh environment. I was captivated by the way the lava crumbled under my feet and sounded like glass breaking as I ventured to this spot. The wind was blowing and waving the small leaves of the fern making it difficult to shoot. My patience was definitely tested as I waited to the breeze to die down long enough to still the shot. Much more that I wasn’t even to my final destination.  Watching this new life was a bit calming as I began to realize how crazy it is that this fern is growing nearly five miles away from any other plant. I thought to myself how strange and foreign this environment is that is being created by the Hawaiian volcano.


    © Christopher Johnson

  • Noio Point Arch

    Photograph of a sea arch along the western Hawaii coastline during sunset

    Sunlight streams through the large opening of a sea arch off of Noio Point along the Kailua Kona coastline.

    See the aerial version I shot with a DJI Spark drone, ‘Sea Arch Aerial‘.

    © Christopher Johnson

    Available backlit from Big Naked Wall. Check out the website and see the cool things they are doing for artwork with their interchangeable prints on backlit frames.

  • Deep Sleep

    A sleeping Honu, turtle, on the dark lava rock of Anaehoomalu Bay. The absence of light reduced the shutter speed enough to give the waves more character.

  • Keahole Sunset

    A wide photograph to show the character of the Keahole shoreline.


    Being too busy to go out and shoot is no fun and that is where I have been for most of 2015. Today I was able to retreat to the beach and noticed the calm ocean. It was then I slated a time to shoot the sunset. When the ocean is calm and the tide is low, the seaweed is more prevalent and I knew exactly where to go. A spot I haven’t been to in a while just north of Kailua Kona where the shoreline has a unique character to what we think Hawaii should look like.

    This location, unlike the others, is more violent when the waves surge in and out of the large holes in the rocky shoreline. Extra caution is needed when setting up. I setup on a high rock that was away from sudden splashes and wave surges, although from the image it doesn’t seem like I was, but I was.
    The sunset seemed to come together at the right moment. I shot several frames, but this is the one that brought the entire scene together… Enjoy!

    © Christopher Johnson

    Purchase a print on paper, canvas, or metal at RedBubble.

  • Four Second Flow

    The Keahole coastline never ceases to amaze me with it’s complete uniqueness and hidden gems.

  • Popular Photography Magazine Photo of the Day (3/8/13)

    [title color=”dark” size=”h3″] Life on a Barren Land is chosen for Photo of the Day [/title]


    Popular Photography Magazine


  • The Big Red Rock

    Some of the most vibrant reds I have ever found in rock was found in the Polulu valley.

    © Christopher Johnson –

  • Waves Crashing During A High Surf Advisory

    I love high surf advisories, and my favorite place to go is OTEC. There is one place in particular that I go on the lava rock that juts out further than the rest of the shoreline. Here I can view the coastline as the wave crashes 20 feet into the air and gradually works it’s way towards me. Then when the wave hits before me, the entire lava shelf rumbles under me. Simply magnificent. Another benefit of the spot I have chosen is that the sea spray doesn’t spray me, keeping me from having to cover and clean my lenses constantly.

    Photography by Christopher Johnson –

  • Sleeping Honu

    I came across this sleeping Honu, turtle, during a beach trip to Mahe’ula state beach park just north of the Kailua Kona, Big Island, airport. What grabbed me to photograph this sleeping honu was the colors of the lava rock it was resting on contrasted against the tattered colors of its shell. How beautiful is the deep volcanic reds against the blues of the same rocks found muted in the shell of the honu.

  • Life on a Barren Land

    Here’s to thinking outside the box.

    When I approach creating an image I am more old fashioned, as if I am shooting with film. I try to get the shot right in the field with the tools I have on hand like filters and a tripod to minimize my time processing the images. However, sometimes the tools you have on hand can’t help always help you. This is when pre-planning for the post processing comes in to play. Preparing to use the tools you can’t bring to the field.

    This shot, with the lava rock framing the tree in the background, posed a depth of field problem for me. I couldn’t shoot a completely sharp image in just one shot because I set up too close to the rocks. Using the HDR method, I shot multiple images at different focal lengths in order to combine later with Photoshop by blending and erasing the layers. Through trial and error I was able to arrive at this shot.